View Full Version : Fly tying starter

10-18-2009, 08:15 PM
My wife and I decide while cleaning the fly gear this morning that after supporting the local shops this past year we decide to take the plunge and start tying our own. She'll clear a corner on the quilting table for a vice and stuff.

So our question: What is a good, dependable beginners "kit" or starter equipment?

10-18-2009, 09:23 PM
First, shop around and look at your options. Second, I suggest that you start with a tool kit first and then add the hooks and materials you will need to tye the flies you want. Many of the kits that I've seen include some not so good materials that won't do you much good. Not to say that it's all bad but you often end up with stuff you won't use. Third, if you get a fly tying book it's hard to beat the Universal Fly Tying Guide by Dick Stewart. I still have my copy from the early 80's. Fourth, feel free to contact me if I can be of any help. The members of this board are a willing resourse for you.

If possible take a few lessons to get started. I was self taught and it was a struggle for a while.

10-19-2009, 07:30 AM
Over the years, we have seen many threads start like this, so I will give you similar advice...

First, if you are just looking to dabble, I would suggest the $75 kit from Cabelas, this is what I started with and it will get you started. However, if you are committed to this, then spend a little extra money, and buy yourself a good set of tools and a reasonably good vice .if you really jump in with both feet, the kit will last you about a year, before the tools and vice begin to crap out on you.

Next, with regard to learning to tie, a class will go a really long way. Look up Chappy on this site. He is a good tier and runs ting lessons through the winter. Otherwise, if you want to go it on your own, then start slow. Pick a pattern, buy the materials for it, master iy, and move on.

Rest assured, this hobby will force you to continue to patronize your local shop, and I will stress that it WILL NOT be less expensive than buying flies.

Good luck and enjoy, it will be frustrating early on, but when you have caught a fish on a fly that you tied, there is no matching that.


Bull Moose
10-19-2009, 08:21 AM
I just saw a nice tool set with a Renzetti Traveler on Craigslist yesterday...150.00 and I think with materials.
I cant say enough about my Peak Vise though.....a great solid rotary vise.

Once you get into it materials can get expensive as TGIF stated.
And it might get frustrating learning how to whip-finish and breaking threads half-way thru a tie....But once you learn the basics and start getting better at it you will get alot of enjoyment out of it.
I only tie buggers, streamers and nymphs.....This winter I plan on picking up a lesson or 2 for some of my favorite dry patterns including the CDC caddis, and stimulator......
One of my headches is cleaning up my mess after a few nights tying....My kitchen often looks like I promoted an illegal cockrooster-fight in it as I am not a tidy tier....

10-19-2009, 08:27 AM
....and there is a ton of info out there in the internet - free - from patterns to "how to" videos.

10-19-2009, 09:50 AM
Congrats on getting into "the other half of fly fishing"!! Tying is a great aspect of the sport. I'd echo what TGIF said about the Cabelas starting kit, it's a nice way to learn basic techniques, and will last you about a year before you'll want to start upgrading. Definitley pick one or two patterns and really focus on them, it's super-easy to get off track and just be trying new patterns all the time, so you never really get good at any one.

I've been tying for about three years now and I think I'm finally realizing a bit of the savings after my initial investment in material...but there's always another pattern out there!!

Don't get discouraged with the broken thread and the clumsy fingers at first, we all went through it!
Good luck,

10-19-2009, 10:10 AM
P.S. One other suggestion.... learn to whip finish without a tool. There are videos online about how to do this.

10-19-2009, 10:48 AM
P.S. One other suggestion.... learn to whip finish without a tool. There are videos online about how to do this.

Why is that Tim?

10-19-2009, 11:19 AM
I actually find it more difficult to whip finish with a tool.

Like many others have stated, start cheap and work your way up. Vices can be expensive and come with a lot of options. I would suggest getting a relatively inexpensive one to figure out what options you'd like before spending $100s of dollars on one. I still use my cheapo $25 vice because it holds the hook and that's essentially all you need it to do when you come down to it.

Tying is a lot of fun and will keep you occupied through the winter. Enjoy.

10-19-2009, 12:14 PM
Tom Jutras, former owner of the much missed Mountain Road Fly Shop, conducts tying classes on Thursday nights from 6-8 at Raymond HS. Tyers of all ages and skill level are welcome and the $3 fee covers the class and materials.

fishin jimmy
10-19-2009, 12:34 PM
I think the kits have a lot of useless junk - low quality feathers that you'll never use; cheap, made in China vises that break, etc. I recommend you contact a local fly shop for a schedule of their group lessons & follow up with them as to the correct equipment. The shop near me had lessons earlier in the year for $75 - which worked out for about $5/session. A friend took several free lessons over at Nashua Public Library last year - there is a lot out there - good luck.
- this coming Thursday - 7:30 pm, Manchester Fly Fishing Assoc is having their meeting at Moe-Joe's Restaurant, Candia Rd near Massabesic Traffic Circle, Manchester, NH - Its a fly tying meeting. You are both welcome to come & see what others use to tie flies. I'll be bringing my vise.

10-19-2009, 12:37 PM

I found the whip finishing tool to be one of the hardest things to learn how to use when tying. It was easier to learn to do it with my hands, and once you start tying small flies, I found that I had better control.

Also, I will often switch threads mid-fly and I couldn't figure out how to use a whip tool to tie off the thread on a streamer back at the tail for example.

Just preference I guess, but after 2 straight nights of practicing whip finishing, I figured that there had to be an easier way.


fishin jimmy
10-19-2009, 12:58 PM
Try a Matarelli "long reach" whip finisher. I use it on bombers & streamers - works well - really good on a fly like a Joe's Smelt where you have to whip a rear tag end.

10-19-2009, 04:33 PM
I agree with Fishing Jimmy.
And yes join us at Moe Joes on Candia Rd next to Lakeside Lanes Bowling.
Thurs will be fly tying night and there will plenty of tyers there.
also in memory of Ben Morin on of our senior members who passed away just recently, his family has donated his fly tying materials to the club members. You have a chance to see what materials you will need as a beginner.
My plan will be to tie egg patterns for the Salmon R., hares ear soft hackle and egg sucking leeches. And I will be available for anyone who wants to learn the whip finisher using the Matarelli tool.

10-19-2009, 05:42 PM
You've gotten lots of good advice. Regarding a vise, the inexpensive cam-collet action vises like reproductions of the old Thompson Model A are really all you need. Other vises will still be out there to lure you and supply your needs as your skills improve, but $25 will get you started. Even the Sunrise vise, made in India, will hold a hook and they sell for < $20.

here is a great article on vises by Hans W. http://www.flyfisherman.com/ftb/hwvise/index.html

A lot of the tools can be expensive when purchased as fly tying tools, but a needle in the end of a stick is a bodkin, embroidery scissors cut, clear nail polish is an effective head varnish, etc. OTOH, when I started tying we didn't have decent bobbins, just big red plastic ovoids that broke the silk thread often. A good bobbin is a joy!

10-20-2009, 05:55 PM

Here is what I recommend:

* Go with a beginner kit to start.
* Plan to tie flies size 8 - 14 only
* Tie in sixes - make six of each pattern you begin with. You should see progressively improved results fly after fly.
* Use up as much materials in the kits that you can.
* Focus on your favorite fishing flies and buy just enough materials to fill half of your fly box in preparation for the opening of the season.
* You may want to by some genetic dry fly hackle size 12-14 bronze quality - half of grizzly and brown - about $22 last I saw. This will give you great hackling materials for wet flies such as cracklebacks and bugger and dry fly hackles for stimulators, EHC, Hornbergs, etc.

Then you are at a decision point. If you are happy tying flies to fish with, your journey is fullfilled. If you like fly tying and really make time for it, now is the time to upgrade equipment. At that point be prepare for the financial investment and get professional help.

The first 3 flies we are teaching right now are the black ant, crackleback, and hare's ear nymph. In our classes we have you tie 6 of each per class. We teach the bet methods of thread control and tie in points so you don't develop bad habits in tying that takes years to correct. A class or being tutored by a good tyer, will pay dividends in your journey under this premise.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to PM me.

Good luck on your journey.


10-21-2009, 10:30 AM
What Chappy said. Excellent advice.

fishin jimmy
11-04-2009, 08:31 AM
Hey bjibeaver:

As noted by Sean - there's a tying session at the Nashua Library January 23.
Pre-registration required. I think its entry level - you & your wife might enjoy it.

11-05-2009, 07:24 PM
Fellow feather flickers,

This is great info and much thanks to everyone. We're making the trek to Cabella's before Turkey Day, so taking note of the suggestions. We'll probably shoot over to the Library this winter and look forward to meeting some of you.

Also ben looking at a 30th anniversary trip out west this summer for a little back country fly fishing. Ten Sleep, Wyoming looks like the spot.